CORTANA MALL
Airline Highway / US 61 & 190 & Florida Boulevard / US 190
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

By the mid-1970s, Louisiana's Capital Area was poised for the debut of its first mega mall. 103 acres were sectioned from the 418-acre Cortana Plantation tract. The site was situated 5.3 miles east of the Bayou State State House.

Construction got underway in 1974, under the auspices of Baton Rouge-based Milton J. Womack, Incorporated. On February 11, 1976, the first store opened; a 1-level (118,500 square foot) Goudchaux's. This was the Baton Rouge-based chain's first branch.

The official dedication of CORTANA MALL was held August 4, 1976, with eight stores commencing operation. Among these were a 2-level (200,000 square foot) J.C. Penney and 1-level (90,000 square foot), Baton Rouge-based H.J. Wilson Catalog Showroom. Dillard's 2-level (238,000 square foot) store welcomed its first shoppers on September 30, 1976. A 2-level (241,000 square foot) Sears began business on March 8, 1978.

Charter stores and services included Thom McAn Shoes, Foxmoor Casuals, City National Bank, The Swiss Colony, Chess King, Dutch Maid Donuts, Record Bar, Waldenbooks, Cortana Holiday Hallmark and a Piccadilly Cafeteria. The General Cinema Corporation Cortana Mall I-II-III , an in-mall multiplex, showed its first features on August 26, 1976.

With a gross leasable area of 1,386,300 square feet, and over one hundred stores, CORTANA MALL was the Bayou State's largest shopping center.

The first mall in the city, the open-air BON MARCHE REGIONAL CENTER {1 mile west, in Baton Rouge} had been dedicated in 1960. This shopping venue was enclosed in 1974, shuttered in 1990, and is known today as BON CARRE TECHNOLOGY CENTER. ESPLANADE MALL {3.2 miles southwest, also in Baton Rouge} was the region's first fully-enclosed shopping complex. It was dedicated in 1973.

The first enlargement of CORTANA MALL was completed in 1981, when Goudchaux's added a second level. The store now encompassed 237,000 square feet. A 2-level (82,000 square foot) Mervyn's, and seven-store North Wing, were dedicated July 12, 1987. The shopping hub now encompassed 1,600,000 leasable square feet.

Over the years, three CORTANA MALL anchor stores were rebranded. Goudchaux's became a Goudchaux's / Maison Blanche in May 1982 and bona fide Maison Blanche in April 1988. With Dillard's acquisition of Mercantile stores, in 1998, Dillard's bounced from its original spot (at the northeast side of the mall) to the Goudchaux's / Maison Blanche spot (on the southwest). This new Dillard's welcomed its first shoppers on December 6, 1998.

The original Dillard's store had been sold to Saks, Inc., who re-opened the space, as a Birmingham-based Parisian, on December 13, 1998. This store was soon rebranded by another Saks Inc. subsidiary. A Jackson, Mississippi-based McRae's nameplate was installed on September 7, 1999.

In early 2001, May Stores acquired nine stores from Saks, Inc., including the McRae's at CORTANA MALL. The store morphed into a Houston-based Foley's on March 28, 2001. Federated Stores acquired May Stores in August 2005. As a result, the CORTANA MALL Foley's received a Macy's nameplate September 9, 2006.

Wilson's Catalog Showroom morphed into a Service Merchandise in 1985 and Steve & Barry's University Sportswear in 2004. This store was shuttered in early 2009. A campus for Birmingham-based Virginia College opened on October 4, 2010. Mervyn's went dark in February 2006 and has never been retenanted.

MALL OF LOUISIANA {4.5 miles south, in East Baton Rouge Parish} opened for business in October 1997. This was followed by SIEGEN LANE MARKETPLACE {5.7 miles southeast, also in East Baton Rouge Parish} in 2002. Baton Rouge's first lifestyle center, TOWNE CENTER AT CEDAR LODGE {1.9 miles southwest, in Baton Rouge} was completed in 2005.

By this time, the CORTANA property had been in decline for a number of years. This was caused, in part, by the proliferation new shopping facilities in its trade area. Another contributing factor was that the center of population of Greater Baton Rouge had shifted southeast, away from the mall.

A face lift, completed in November 1991, attempted to reverse the mall's malaise. A second update, done in the late 1990s, included resurfacing of the parking lot, new interior and exterior landscaping, ceiling treatments and interior lighting. A name change, to MALL AT CORTANA, was implemented in June 1997.

The official name of the center reverted back to CORTANA MALL in March 2009. This name change was joined by the opening of several new inline stores. These included Trios West, 80 Stitches, Baton Rouge Police Supply, Cozamel Mexican Restaurant, Bernard's Pralines and Goldman's Jewelers. Dillard's was also converted into a single-level Clearance Center.

New York City-based Mall Properties, Incorporated, saddled with an upside down mortgage, gave the CORTANA property back to the lender in April 2011. The Dallas-based Woodmont Company was brought in the manage the property and lease its vacant area. In March 2013, Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Capital Investments, Limited Liability Company acquired the shopping hub.

In January 2016, Cincinnati's Macy's, Inc. announced that their CORTANA MALL store would be shuttered along with thirty-nine other locations around the United States. The store went dark in March 2016.

One year later, the mall's east anchor store was shuttered, as one of forty-one decommissioned Sears locations. J.C. Penney added to mall's woes by closing their store in June 2017. It bit the proverbial dust as one of one hundred and twenty mall-based stores closed by the Plano, Texas-based chain.

Sources:

The Advocate (Baton Rouge)
East Baton Rouge Parish Library
www.urbanprairiewasteland.blogspot.com
www.cortanamall.com
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.mallproperties.com
http://moonbeamproperty.com
"Mall At Cortana" article on Wikipedia